Cowboy boots, blue jeans and business-savvy (25th Anniversary Special)

Oct. 10, 2018
Mac Tools distributor Carrie Lake wins over rural Michigan route in six years.

As a self-titled ‘garage girl’ who’s clearly big on business, but never ‘all-business,’ Mac Tools mobile distributor Carrie Lake has found her stride in being herself.

When she walks into a shop, most likely in her blue jeans and cowboy boots, you know she’s going to ask her customers about their weekend, and then they’re going to ask her about her big Fourth of July party — or some other thing she’s getting herself into — and she’s going to be there to do that every week. Rain or shine, Lake shows up for her customers and hands them their tool flyer.

In 2013, when Professional Distributor first featured the then-newbie tool distributor, Lake had just taken over a territory that hadn’t seen a Mac Tools truck in six years. The 2008 recession hit Northeast Michigan hard, especially in the automotive arena. But shortly after taking over, she had just doubled the routes’ customer base and was servicing everything from independent repair shops to aircraft maintenance facilities. For the past six years, she’s stayed on pace, even taking on a portion of another distributor’s route.

A major part of Lake’s territory is servicing the Kalitta Air cargo airline in Oscoda, Michigan. It takes Lake one full day every week to service the 10 airplane hangars and 200-something maintenance shops. Kalitta Air is a sister company of Kalitta Charters, which is owned by Doug Kalitta, a top fuel drag racer sponsored by Mac Tools.

Lake works five days a week, but she doesn’t count her Monday as a work day, which she uses to do inventory, banking and other paperwork.

This born-and-raised Michigander lives and runs her route on the shore of Lake Heron, which she says makes life easy for her.

“You can’t go east, there’s water there,” Lake says of her route. “I can only go in three directions: north, south and west. And in every direction, I butt up into another distributor. So, I go three directions and I work four days a week. Life is good.”

That may just be the simple, humble way of saying she’s got her route down to a science.

A key to Lake’s laid back-attitude could be just who she is, or maybe it has something to do with her work-life balance.

“My theory is that I park the truck for the day and before I get out of it, I’m done,” Lake explains. “I do whatever paperwork I have to do to close out my day, and I’m done. When I’m home, I have my son’s full attention.”

Lake says the key to staying refreshed is to take time off when it’s needed, something she’s had to learn along the way. As a distributor, Lake acknowledges how hard it can be take a break because it’s such a “big orchestrated plan” when it’s needed. But, it’s necessary.

“If you’re starting to feel burnt out, take that time or you’re not going to make it,” Lake advises other distributors. “You’re going to hate your life, you’re going to hate your job.”

While she advocates for responsible breaks, that doesn’t mean she’s ready to slow down anytime soon.

“I see no retirement in my sight,” Lake says. “A tool dealer can never retire. Somebody’s always gonna owe money.”

Carrie Lake is a featured distributor in Professional Distributor's 25th Anniversary Special Edition October 2018 issue. She was first featured in the magazine in 2013.

About the Author

Vesna Brajkovic | Associate Editor - Vehicle Repair Group

Vesna Brajkovic is a former associate editor for the Vehicle Repair Group.

Brajkovic has covered the transportation industry for a number of trade publications, with a focus on the vehicle maintenance and automotive aftermarket industries since 2016. Prior to that, she covered the global aviation industry as assistant editor for Endeavor Business Media's AviationPros.com, and held a number of editorial positions at an award-winning community newspaper.

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